Sunday, August 30, 2009

Useless booty

The story about the computers being stolen from Medical Centres made me think about what the thieves hoped to achieve. Certainly there would have been disruption to the service as new computers were acquired and commissioned.

What use would the computers be to the thieves?

It is hard to imagine that medical centres use high end specification machines. For sure they would be useless to anyone hoping to play the latest games on them. They were probably configured to work on a network and so would require some skilful work to make them operate as standalone machines. It is possible that the thieves have got fed up trying to make sense out of the computers and have now dumped them.

The story reminded me of an incident at the old Anfield school where I used to teach many years ago. The Head of Maths had a RM Nimbus computer in his stockroom. He was ahead of his time since computers were largely unheard of in schools then. The actual computer was a huge box which sat on the floor. On the desktop was the monitor which was in fact colour and the keyboard (NB no mouse: this was well before mice were invented).

One evening, his stockroom was broken into and thieves (presumably pupils from the school) stole the monitor and keyboard. They obviously thought the monitor was the computer itself. However, it didn’t take them long to realise their mistake because the monitor was found dumped in the local park sadly in an unusable state.

There was also a Commodore computer in the Maths stockroom. The Head of Maths managed to program the Commodore using BASIC to sort out the examination entries; previously that was a time consuming task that had to be done on paper.

The computer wizard would work on his program after school finished at 4pm but then found that the change in voltage caused by classroom lights being switched off at the end of lessons caused the machine to crash. Fearful of loosing all his work, he kept five backup copies of the program and the data on five five and a quarter inch floppy discs; each located in a different place. Bear in mind that writing data to a floppy disc  was painfully slow: it would  take until 6pm each night to complete the task.

And we complain today if our machines take more than thirty seconds to boot up. You have to be a certain age to remember the rotating hourglass!

1 comment:

Maz said...

Oh how I remember the Commodore and five and a quarter inch discs! How quickly technology moves on. Now I complain bitterly when I have to wait more than a minute to download something! But there was something exciting and fun about the 'new' computer age with games like Miner and Frogger - which were so addictive at the time.